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March 25, 2003

New York City Observation #5

A large marquee sign at the 7th Avenue entrance to Madison Square Garden states, "Ticket Buyers: Counterfeit tickets are sold on the street!" How helpful! That'll save someone a trip to the box office.

New York City Observation #4

A rug store on 30th Street, each sign happily proclaiming "Established Since 1947."

March 24, 2003

Oscar Contest Results

Congratulations to Kelly, who won the Songdog.net Oscar contest with fifteen correct award predictions out of twenty-four. Jayson Javier came in second, with thirteen predictions, and uke jackson's ten predictions netted him third place. Tracy and I also managed ten predictions, but uke jackson got past us on the bonus question of how long the broadcast would run over. Many of us actually racked in points on that question, raising our scores as if we'd predicted another category or two. But Kelly beat us all with only 20 of her 1,520 points coming from the bonus question. Great job, Kelly! How did you do it?

Thanks to all who played, and I hope to have you back again next year!

March 21, 2003

Two More Screenings

I've been to another couple of screenings of Academy Award-nominated films. Yesterday, Bowling For Columbine, and today, Catch Me If You Can. I recommend both movies.

Michael Moore's documentary about gun violence in the United States, Bowling For Columbine, explores various potential factors behind the high number of gun deaths in this country but does not offer easy answers. I feel I should warn any potential viewers that there the movie contains some very disturbing footage of gun victims and killings. It also includes what is probably the most excruciating sequence I've ever watched, assembled from security camera footage and recorded telephone calls during the Columbine shootings. There is also a brief clip of the second plane striking the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. I hadn't seen footage of that event in a long time and was startled by the power it retains.

Catch Me If You Can is based on the astonishing young life of Frank Abagnale Jr., who in the 1960s spent several years living under various identities on the proceeds of his skill at forging checks. This film is a great deal of fun to watch. The opening credits are brilliantly done (there really ought to be an Oscar category for these) and John Williams' score is perfect. Despite my concerns Leonardo DiCaprio is very good as Abagnale, as is Tom Hanks in an unusual role as an FBI fraud investigator. Christopher Walken is excellent as Abagnale Senior, putting lots of wonderful subtle touches into his performance.

Strange Hit From Ask Jeeves

Search hits are weird. I just got the strangest one yesterday from Ask Jeeves UK: "what do you type in for sims deluxe edition to get no sensors". My best guess is that someone is referring to the "censoring" (via pixellation) of moments of nudity in the game, The Sims. For no good reason I'm at the top of list of results.

This won't help: Yes Virginia, although I haven't tried them there are patches that remove the pixellation. I am given to understand, though, that underneath the Sims are anatomically incorrect, à la Barbie. The Maxis programmers evidently didn't bother rendering details they were going to blur out anyway. However, other creative folks have crafted alternate Sims skins, sans clothing. I'm sure you can find this stuff online if you want to. Just not here.

March 20, 2003

This Blog's First Birthday!

One year ago I launched this weblog at Songdog.net with this post. I like to think the site improved from there, and I'd like to take this opportunity to draw your attention to some of my favorite items, things I feel are highlights of the first year, in case you missed 'em or want to go back and have another look:

Funniest Appropriated News Image: It's a tie between Robot Journalist and The Ants Go Marching

Coolest Public Domain Images: Earth From Space 1, 2, 3, and 4

Best Travel Advice: When In Maui, Borrow A Dog

Best Solar Weather Post: Look At That Heliosphere!

Most Interesting Comments Thread: The Terrifica Thread

Best Animal Politician Coverage: Tie between Percy (1, 2) and Clay Henry III

Best Court Coverage: United States v. Lucite ball Containing Lunar Material

Best Reference: Tie between melodies and adverbs

Best Oughta-be-a Band Name: Urgent Overture

Worst Fear: The Fear of Being Overheard While Talking in Restaurants (Am I really alone in this? It would appear so.)

Most Successful Unpaid Advertisement: The Construction Site (I still haven't been to the physical store, but I'm responsible for at least one new customer).

Best Celebrity Spotting: A Favorite Frog

Best Animal Flash Toy: The Rabbit

Worst Spam Development: tie between RNC spam and referrer log spam

Best Spam Development: unquestionably spamradio

Weirdest Spam: another tie, between time and mucus

Favorite Old Favorite: The Dialectizer

Comments Thread That Just Won't Die: The Vanilla Coke Thread

Best Addition To The Site: The Photoblog!

I hope that you have been enjoying this site as much as I've been enjoying producing it. I welcome your comments and suggestions, and hope to just keep making things better!

Happy Birthday, Blog!

March 18, 2003


Today I attended a screening of Jeffrey Blitz' Academy Award-nominated documentary, Spellbound, which follows eight young contestants in the 1999 National Spelling Bee. I got very caught up in the competition, and couldn't decide who to root for. The kids are smart, determined, and likeable, and it's stressful on the viewer as one by one they inevitably drop over the course of the tense competition. My favorite quote, from a contestant's younger brother: "If I had blood pressure, it would have rocketed high-sky!" The film has a nice but Flash-heavy official site here.

Re-observation of SETI Signal Candidates

The SETI@Home project allows people all over the world to volunteer time on their Internet-connected computers to the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. In the four years or so that this project has been running, over a million years of computing time have been donated by individuals like myself, and by organizations and corporations that run the SETI@Home software.

The data used in the project comes from a survey done at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, and over the next three days that observatory will be focused specifically on the 150 most promising signal candidates identified by the project.

It is possible that an artificial signal of extraterrestrial origin will be found, which would certainly rank among the greatest discoveries in scientific history. It is also possible that none of the candidates will fulfill their promise, which would also be very important information, as it would tell us about the scarcity or dearth of signals of the kind we're searching for.

I just checked my stats, and I've been participating in SETI@Home for three and a half years. I'm over 1400 workunits now, putting me in the 97th percentile out of over four million active users!

Thanks for the BBC link, Alex!

Update:Metafilter is discussing this, starting with a Planetary Society release.


Mark Frauenfelder's excellent Boing Boing post and the subsequent discussion (starting here) inspired me to consider what gadgets I carry with me on a daily basis. What do I consider really essential? Read on to see what I bring.

Every day:

  • My wallet (tending towards overstuffed, but frequently weeded), which minimally contains my personal IDs, organ donor card, health insurance card, AAA card, gym ID, my bank/debit card, and some cash.
  • My keys, with four home, three work, and sometimes three car keys.
  • A stainless steel, waterproof pill case, carried on my key chain. I'm on one medication indefinitely, and this gift from my father is indispensable. They're available here (I've got the magnum).
  • ADDENDUM: I wear glasses, or sometimes contacts, and I wouldn't be too happy without one or the other.
  • ADDENDUM 2: I almost always wear an analog wristwatch.

Commuting Days:


  • My messenger bag, depending upon the size and weight of my reading material. I really carry this almost every weekday, but I like commuting lighter so I'm putting it here.
  • Canon Powershot S300 digicam. I should really bring this more often, as I'm almost always glad when I have it.
  • Motorola V60t phone
  • Sunglasses. These are prescription, and I've lost two expensive pairs in the past, so I'm almost afraid to use them.
  • In the winter: a stick of Burt's Bees lip balm. Good stuff.

On Hiatus

  • My venerable Palm IIIx. I inherited this from a former employer several years ago. The display goes on the blink once in a while, but it works well otherwise. I think about replacing it sometimes, but as the batteries have been dead for a while and I've discovered that I'm fairly happy without it, I haven't done anything yet, including resuscitated the poor device.
  • Levenger Pocket Briefcase, a marvelous thing. I stopped carrying it regularly when I got the Palm and it's still languishing at home, but I've considered putting it back in the messenger bag and seeing if it comes in handy.

I think that's it. Not too bad, and the daily loadout is pretty light compared to some folks. How about the rest of you?


After several days, hours over the weekend, and a late night last night, I finally finished prepping nearly four hundred digital shots for printing. This morning I stopped by the shop I favor, but I forgot something. Today is Purim, and the shop was closed. I am a poor excuse for a New Yorker. I should probably bookmark this.

March 16, 2003

Working, working

I've been working on processing the sixteen hundred or so digital photos I took in Hawai‘i, which is why I haven't been posting. Soon, I promise!

March 13, 2003

Hawaiian HTML Difficulties

By the way, I've been having a hard time deciding what to do about representing some Hawaiian words in HTML. Read on for details.

The ‘Okina:

The word "Hawaii" itself is properly pronounced with a glottal stop between the last two vowels, which is represented in Hawaiian by the ‘okina symbol, which is not available in HTML. I've been inconsistent in my use of this symbol here, but it's considered a consonent in Hawaiian, a language that has precious few letters with which to convey pronounciation, so I'm going to try to use it properly. Here: Hawai‘i. That's better.

In some of my posts I have been using the foot character (') as a placeholder for the ‘okina, but I've noticed that Hawaiian language sites more commonly use the left single-quote (‘). Neither of these is correct, however. The ‘okina is supposed to look like an apostrophe rotated 180 degrees.

The Macron:

Called a kahako (with a macron over the o) or a mekona in Hawaiian, the macron is placed over a vowel to indicate the lengthening of that vowel. Some people drop this altoghter in HTML, and some use the carat character (^) over or type a tilde (~) after the lengthened vowel. Not exactly a great set of solutions, are they? In most cases I don't know where the macrons go anyway, so I won't kick myself too hard. If I do happen to know one I'll probably use a carat or something like that.

Incidently, both the okina and the macron are available in Unicode. Songdog.net is currently presented in an ISO-8859-1 encoding, but if I switched to Unicode other things would become possible. I just don't know how well various browsers would behave. Also, some sites, including this one, which provides the Unicode values for Hawaiian letters, also encourage the use of alternate fonts and plug-ins. It works, if your readers are willing to bother, but man, oh man, is it a pain to have to do this. I consider myself very fortunate to be working in the language towards which the web is biased, and I wish that there wasn't so much baggage preventing us from making a clean break and fixing things.

That said, I should probably clean up my use of foot (') and inch (") characters for single- and double-quotes, find myself an ellpisis entity, follow the rules and proper encodings of em- and en-dashes, and so forth. Sigh… (Hey! That's one problem solved!)

Aloha! We're Back!

It was a terrific trip. We stayed in Kailua-Kona on the western shore of the Big Island of Hawai‘i and roamed around from there, using our rented SUV to great advantage as we explored some less accessible attractions. We're back at work today and somewhat jet-lagged, but I promise you pictures and stories. I can't recommend Hawai‘i highly enough!

March 11, 2003

Waipi'o Photos

Today's our last day in Hawaii; we fly back this evening, with stories and more photos to share. But speaking of photos, did you catch my Waipi'o Valley photo series over in the Photoblog? What a place that valley is.

March 10, 2003

The Big Three-Oh

If you can read this, I'm thirty years old. I'm writing this before our trip, but I can assure you that I'm having a happy birthday in Hawaii right now. We'll probably be at the beach in the morning, fortified with some perfect Kona coffee. I don't know about the rest of the day. Maybe we'll ascend Mauna Kea? Maybe a trip to Waipio valley? Maybe I'll go and try something crazy to celebrate my continued youth :).

When we get back I'll let you know how it went, and how it feels to be thirty. I'm willing to bet that it feels pretty good.

March 09, 2003

Thanks For A Great Example

I'm turning thirty tomorrow, and I want to tip my hat to Bonnie Burton for setting such a great and encouraging example (scroll down to July 11-13). This really made me feel good about the whole thing, so thank you, Bonnie!

March 08, 2003

IWD: Queen Liliuokalani

Today is International Women's Day. Did you know this goes back ninety-four years?

I'm in the beautiful land of Hawaii right now, and so today I'd like to remember Hawaii's last monarch, Queen Liliuokalani. She was born in Honolulu as Lydia Kamakameha in 1838. Her brother became king in 1874, and upon his death in 1891 she became Hawaii's first reigning queen. By that time American business concerns had gained considerable power which they were unwilling to relinquish. After only two years their intrigues forced the Queen from her throne. Although President Cleveland officially supported her, she was never reinstated, and Hawaii was annexed by the United States under President McKinley in 1898. Liliuokalani endured a year of house arrest (1895-1896) but was then allowed to return to her home, where she remained until her death in 1917.

Although Hawaii's queen and her reign are unknown by most Americans, one piece of her legacy is familiar around the world. In 1878 Liluokalani was inspired to compose the song "Aloha Oe", which evokes visions of the Hawaiian islands even among those who have never visited them.

There's a great photo of Liliuokalani with Robert Louis Stevenson here (scroll down).

March 06, 2003

Volcano Info

Want to know what's up with the volcanic activity in Hawaii? There's no better source of info than the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. They've got a very helpful eruption update page with spectacular pictures of lava overrunning the road where we parked only 18 months ago to watch lava a mile to the east. It's an astonishing spectacle, and we'll see if we can get a good look at it this trip. Not too close, mind you ...

March 04, 2003

We're having a great time!

We're sitting at a coffee shop, waiting for our breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as we're heading to the beach and then to the summit of Mauna Kea!

Flash Flash Revolution

OK. I'm not playing it right now. But I've been playing Flash Flash Revolution almost daily for a month or so now, and I just can't stop. The game is a Flash version of the popular arcade game Dance Dance Revolution in which players do dance steps on floorpads according to choreographed patterns demanded by the game and are scored based on rhythmic and stepping accuracy. In FFR you use your keyboard instead of your feet, so the coordination is different (fortunately for me), but some of what you do with your eyes and brain is the same, and it's a lot of fun. You have to register (free) to play, but it's definitely worth it.

March 03, 2003

Hawaii Time in the Photoblog

Don't forget to check out the photoblog while we're away. I'm on an all-Hawaiian theme over there!

March 02, 2003

Happy Birthday, Leslie!

Happy birthday to my wonderful wife! I'm sure we're having a great time in Hawaii, our first full day there this trip. We'll be at the beach in the morning, and having a great meal at Merriman's. Today's photoblog post is for you!

March 01, 2003

At the airport

I love public internet terminals. We checked in without incident and we're waiting for boarding to begin for our flight, which is (knock on wood) on time. Talk to you all in eleven days!

The security people checked each and every one of the two dozen rolls of film that we brought :).

We're On Our Way!

Aloha, New Jersey! Aloha, Hawaii!